What’s in a Name?

Some of you, dear readers, know that my name is Mary Tod. Some of you know that I plan to self-publish one of my novels in the next few months. Therefore, the question becomes under what name should I publish.

Let me tell you what happens to me whenever I introduce myself to someone in the US. He or she says some variation of “Did you know that Lincoln’s wife was Mary Todd?” Pay attention to two aspects: (1) a very famous person in US history and (2) she clearly spelled her name incorrectly: Mary Todd should be Mary Tod–shouldn’t it?

Let me tell you what happens when you Google my name. (I hasten to add that I rarely do this.) That wonderful search engine assumes I’ve spelled my own name incorrectly and instead finds millions of references to Mary Todd Lincoln, 94 million as of today.

So, what’s a writer to do?

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to write as M.K. Tod. Sharon Kay Penman can get away with Kay as her second name, but Mary K. Tod merely reminds people of cosmetics. And in case you think I should revert to my maiden name, I can’t do that either. My wonderful sister-in-law has taken it over.

So there you have it. M.K. Tod, writer of historical fiction. I rather like it. What do you think?

29 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Hi Mary. Interesting dilemma! Will you be keeping M.K. Tod from now on then as your pen name?
    I like it. It seems a pity to lose the gender aspect (M.K. could be male as well as female) but if you have an author photo on the back cover that would solve that.
    I like it.

  2. At least it’s your choice: I’m V.M.Whitworth because Ebury Press insisted I disguise my gender. And M isn’t even my real middle initial – they said J was too common!

    1. How interesting, Victoria. It did occur to me that since I currently write about WWI and WWII, it wouldn’t hurt to have a gender neutral name. Does it help your efforts?

  3. I like M K Tod very much. It also is generic/asexual. Thus your writing is featured foremost and not ‘well it was written by a>>>>>
    My question is what if you chose to write in a different genre as contemporary. Would your readers fret and growl at you?

  4. I definitely like M.K. Tod, but I think once you associate a name with yourself, you shouldn’t change it for future publications. I believe every author goes through the dilemma of what name to use. My maiden name is Marzano, which goes great with my novel Forty Years in a Day since it is about an Italian immigrant family, however, I ultimately decided to use my married name, Mona Rodriguez. I’ve used Rodriguez (my husband is from Spain) longer than Marzano (my father is from Italy) and more people, both professionally and personally, know me by Mona Rodriguez. Both names have a distinct ethnic orientation which I also took under consideration.

      1. Hi Mona .. many thanks for dropping by and for sharing your interesting experience. Hopefully M.K. Tod will become my brand! And, as Downith points out, there’s always Tod shoes to help me along! Apparently, that name was chosen out of the New York (or maybe Boston) phone book when the original Italian family were looking for a brand name with appeal outside Italy.

  5. Am so impressed that you are going to self publish! Good for you! My mother self published her second novel and is about to do so with her third. (she puts me to shame)

    MK Tod is good. Whenever I see Tod I think of Tod shoes!

    Don’t get me started on my name…

  6. I think losing the gender thing is a good idea. Writing as M K Tod does not lock you in with a (perceived) male or female audience/readership. and who knows where your books will lead in the future.
    I write under my full female name and under my initials and surname – but my best sales are from the latter.

    1. Thanks for that comment, Margaret. Several men have read my novels and think the war scenes I write are well done and I’d like to keep a broad audience. What do you do for cover design?

  7. “Have you read that book by M K Tod?” “It’s by M K Tod” ” The new book by M K Tod” Yup, it sounds good to me at least. I’ll look out for your books. 😄

  8. Nice. I like it. Please keep us informed about your self-publishing adventure. You will do well. I know that cause I am one of the lucky ones who has read your work.

  9. I think M. K. Tod could easily cross into different genres. But a question about your sister-in-law –is her name Mary ? If not ,you might think about using your maiden name. I recently did a little name changing – but for a different reason. I was known as Judith Schara Caldwell for many years but recently dropped the Caldwell. Caldwell is a former husband and though he is still a charming person I like, I want my own identity. So, Schara is my maiden name and henceforth will be my only last name. I’m hoping that correspondents will easily recognize it – it’s not a common name.

    Whatever name you choose, you might alert the world as to your new nom de plume Perhaps via Facebook? (I’m planning on doing that)

    Exciting news about getting your book out there and I know it takes a lot of planning and work. We aill all be looking for your publication date!

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion, Judith. And, as it happens, my sister-in-law is Mary. I think your suggestion about getting the news out there is important. I’ll be thinking about how best to do that – using the ‘seven times’ principle – tell people seven times before it sinks in!!

  10. I guess I’m lucky to have a unique/unusual name. I’ve heard having a gender neutral name can be a major plus and have seen several women in self-publishing opt for it. I wish you luck whatever name you have.

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